Hurricane Ike messes with Texas, other states as it hits U.S.
Before hitting land in the United States on Saturday, Hurricane Ike killed some 70 people in Haiti and four in Cuba last week as it made its way north from the Caribbean, but so far in the U.S. the death toll estimate remains a relatively modest 13. Hurricane Ike nailed Texas as well as Louisiana and Arkansas with winds up to 100 miles per hour as well as heavy rains and a 15-foot storm surge. Officials urged evacuated residents not to return home yet as debris and flooding still blocked many roads, and power was still out across a large swath of the hurricane’s path. Utilities in the area say it could be a month or more before full power is restored to the roughly 2.5 million homes and businesses still without it.
Texas launched its largest-ever rescue operation after the storm, targeting residents who elected to stay home despite orders to evacuate. The operation reached nearly 2,000 people as of Sunday afternoon, mostly moving them to shelters farther north. More than 500 National Guard troops arrived in Houston this weekend to help enforce a weeklong nighttime curfew there that officials say is aimed at keeping looting to a minimum. Health officials warned residents in affected areas to boil tap water or only drink bottled water due to fears that water supplies were contaminated.
Hurricane Ike also stopped some 98 percent of oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and shut down a major pipeline from Texas to New York. Fifteen oil refineries remained closed Monday, including the nation’s largest, and federal officials estimated the storm completely destroyed 10 oil production platforms in the gulf, but so far there are no reports of any large oil spills. News of the energy shutdowns led to a spike in oil and gasoline prices; gas prices in some parts of the country hit $5 a gallon. In an attempt to offset the spikes, the Department of Energy said it would release 939,000 barrels of crude oil from its strategic reserves and investigate accusations of price gouging.